I’ve spent the last 2.5 years in Los Angeles rolling steadily through my PhD coursework. I’ve had a million adventures that usually involved the beach, eating, dancing, walking, hiking, fancy hotels, comedy shows, concerts, parties, desert trips, etc etc etc. I never know how long I’ll really be able to live here, and I want to know I did everything. I want to really be here while I’m here. Maybe I’ll end up here. Can’t think about these things now. The point is, this, my 6th semester of PhD school, my 10th semester of graduate school, my 16th semester of higher education, and this is the semester that just might end me. Lately I feel like I am inside an aquarium. But not in a fun way. Just in an awful way where I am definitely not a fish and so why the fuck am I in an aquarium I can’t hold my breath this long and it’s so loud and blurry and all these gallons of water are compressing my tiny human body to nothing.
Because I’m applying for a fancy fellowship that requires me to be in a certain standing by a certain date, I am very suddenly doing all of my PhD exams in one semester.
Reading for fields fields fields
Writing, reading, and researching for quals quals quals
And teaching what is effectively an upper division honors literature/composition course I designed about the desert
Here’s just a very little bit of what I’ve found:
And here’s just a very little bit of what’s been going on in my classroom:
In between all of that, I’m trying to breathe and push my heart to pounding every day so I can stay sane.
I am also trying to raise these creatures proper, which will very soon involve beginning Malta’s service training to become an Emotional Support Animal.
But I’m still trying to have fun sometimes. So I don’t explode. I’ve only taken one day off this whole semester. I think that needs to become a regular thing. A person cannot live with 3 different field exam reading lists & ideas, a dissertation project, deadlines, bureaucracy, and a whole class inside one brain at one time. I mean, maybe better minds than mine can do it, but I cannot juggle so many disparities in one small chunk of mushy grey stuff in my head. So sometimes eating dinner at fancy places, sometimes dancing, sometimes watching the sun go down over the Pacific from my favorite rooftop bar with my favorite girl, sometimes hiking with Malta, always walking with Malta, sometimes seeing Judith Butler read or David Shields talk.
Oh and the other day my brain finally figured out this thing it’s been trying to think through since forever, so I ended up writing the first section of my essay on Shelley Jackson’s story project, “Snow.” Basically I just accosted her project by leaving comments on something like the first hundred photos. The essay is intended to be read in reverse order, as is her project, and each comment is part of the larger essay that reflects on her work and the interface with which she’s chosen to present it.
There’s been paperwork and committees and occasional free on campus lunch. There have been meetings and email exchanges and scheduling and drafting. Today I asked someone to be on my committee, and it felt like such an exciting moment because I get to work with people of my choosing for the next two years on something that is incredibly important to me. And that, in the end, will make all of this hoop jumping, brain killing totally worth it.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about love. And why I’m so bad at it. And why it owns me. And how it can be something better than it is.
Though mostly what’s happening is that my insides are screaming GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT RUN RUN RUN THE DESERT IS WAITING THERE IS NO PHD IN THE DESERT THERE IS LOVE IN THE DESERT THERE IS FREEDOM IN THE DESERT RUN.
But I will not run.
For the first time.
I will not run.